By: Christopher J. Kelly, and Writer

In this article we assume that you are starting your RB1s regardless of the matchup.

Each week we will analyze the defenses and provide our take on which RBs you should start and which should be benched based on matchups with stout run defenses, stubbed toes, potential weather problems, conduct code violations etc.

The following Defenses are allowing 15 or fewer fantasy points per game to opposing rushers (over the past 5 weeks):  Cleveland, Washington, Kansas City, Buffalo, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Houston and Denver.  

On the flip side, these defenses (Jacksonville, New England, Carolina, Green Bay, Seattle and Oakland) have been shredded by ground games and are allowing 22 or more fantasy points per game to opposing RBs (over the past 5 weeks). 

On the injury front, Carolina’s John Stewart (ankle) is a major question mark for the matchup with Atlanta and Donald Brown is expected to be sidelined elevating Vick Ballard to a solid option versus a struggling Titan defense. As always, injuries will surely play a role in your lineup decisions and our interactive INJURY CHART with fantasy advice . The Injury Report will be updated up until the 1pm Sunday kickoffs.

Running Back Upgrades:

Michael Turner (@ Carolina):  The NFC South Champion Atlanta Falcons are on the road in Charlotte to take on the Carolina Panthers 25th ranked run defense. Michael Turner looks to continue his momentum after he carried 12 times for 83 yards and a touchdown last Thursday against the Saints. On Sunday, Turner takes on a defensive unit that has allowed 22 FPG and five touchdowns over the last five contests. Just last week, Chiefs running back Jamal Charles ran for 127 yards while Eagles rookie Bryce Brown gashed the same Panthers defense for 178 yards and two scores in Week 12.  Turner has had recent success against Carolina dating back to 2011. In his last three games against the Panthers, the nine-year pro has 318 yards and two touchdowns. Turner has also scored in three straight games and will look to continue that streak Sunday.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis (vs. Dallas):  Some running backs really get going when they get the ball a lot, especially at the end of games. Some backs take moat of the season to get going, but it was well worth the wait. After not having a single 100 yard game for the first ten weeks, Green-Ellis has passed the century mark in three straight games. The fifth-year back out of Mississippi has also found the explosiveness that had been missing. In the last three games, Green-Ellis has had runs of 21, 48, and 41 yards, and has added a pair of touchdowns as well. Next up is Dallas that might rank 17th against the run (16 FPG), but has been gashed in recent weeks. The Cowboys allowed 282 yards and three touchdowns to rookies Bryce Brown (Eagles) and Alfred Morris (Redskins) in the past two weeks.

Shonn Greene (@ Jacksonville):  The Jets are always in the news and this week has been no different as they decide on who their quarterback will be. Regardless of who the starter is for New York, Greene has still been able to put up some decent numbers. In last week’s 7-6 win over the Cardinals, Greene carried 24 times for 104 yards. Although he hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 7, Greene is averaging 67 yards per contest. This matchup could be just what Greene needs. The Jaguars are allowing 144 yards a game and have given up 16 rushing touchdowns on the season. Jacksonville ranks in the bottom five allowing just over 21 fantasy points a game to running backs.

Running Back Downgrades:

Reggie Bush (@ San Francisco):  Perhaps its by default that running backs are not supposed to do well against the 49ers. Well they’re not.

San Francisco ranks number one against the run (10 FPG) allowing 90 yards a game and only three rushing touchdowns on the season. Last week, the Niners held Steven Jackson to just 48 yards. A week before that, the Saints’ Chris Ivory and Mark Ingram combined for only 61 yards. In his last three games, Bush has rushed for 171 yards on 39 attempts with one touchdown. He loses some touches to Daniel Thomas, especially at the goal line, so this could be a tough week to use him.

Montell Owens (vs. New York Jets):  When players are thrusted into a starting role, many fantasy owners jump at the chance to start them. If we learned anything from Rashard Jennings, that doesn’t always work. Jennings (concussion), Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) and Jalen Parmele (leg) are all out because of injury which puts seven year pro Montell Owens at the helm. Unfortunately during that seven year career, Owens has 21 carries for 112 yards and two touchdowns.  Last week, Owens ran for only 29 yards against a Buffalo Bills team ranked second to last in run defense. This week Owens will take on the Jets that despite allowing 19 FPG in the last five weeks, have only given up two touchdowns on the ground in that same timeframe. Regardless of who is running or throwing the ball, Jacksonville is 30th in points scored averaging just over 17 points per contest.

Stevan Ridley (vs. Houston):  Since becoming the featured back this season, Ridley has amassed 1,010 yards and nine touchdowns so far in just his second season in the NFL. On Monday night Ridley will host the visiting Houston Texans which bring the second ranked defense allowing just 87 yards a game to running backs. In his last five games Ridley has rushed for 421 yards and is riding a touchdown streak scoring in each of those contests. This week the streak could come to an end. Since Week 9, Houston has improved on their yearly average holding backs to only 70 yards a game. Despite all of the injuries on defense, Houston has allowed just two rushing touchdowns all season long.

Running Back Sleepers:

Pierre Thomas (@New York Giants):  If there is any hope the Saints make the postseason they must win out. Last Thursday, Thomas carried the most of any New Orleans running back finishing with 84 yards on 14 carries in a loss to the Falcons. The 14 carries were the most Thomas has seen since Week 7 which could be a sign as both Mark Ingram and Chris Ivory continue to struggle. Thomas will next face a Giants defense that ranks 21st against the run allowing 122 yards per game. New York has only given up six rushing touchdowns all season, just one in the last five games, but with a pass defense that ranks 22nd in the league, Drew Brees should be able to set up the running attack for Thomas to capitalize on.

Vick Ballard (vs. Tennessee):  Last week against the Lions, Ballard made the most of his limited opportunities.

Ballard only carried nine times for 41 yards, but he added another 21 yards in the air and he scored his first rushing touchdown. Prior to that game, Ballard had double digit touches since Week 7 and averaged 60 yards per contest in a timeshare with Donald Brown. This week Ballard takes on the Titans defense that is 27th against the run allowing roughly 130 yards per game. Tennessee has also been generous given up 11 rushing scores on the season. Ballard looks to carry most of the workload since Brown has been ruled out with an ankle injury.

Joique Bell (@ Green Bay):  In the last five weeks, the Packers have allowed 123 yards a game and five rushing touchdowns (23 FPG). In just the last two games against the Giants and Vikings, Green Bay has been burned for 387 yards and three scores. Needless to say, the Packers are having a hard time stopping the run. This week the Lions come to Lambeau and even though Mikel Leshoure is the feature back, Bell sees plenty of action. In the last two games, Bell has 12 carries for 128 yards and a touchdown. The third-year pro out of Wayne State University has averaged just under six yards per carry and also has over 300 yards receiving on 34 receptions.

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